The Tuition Assistance Grant Program was created in 1999 by Congress to give residents of the District of Columbia who are high school graduates the opportunity to pay in-state tuition rates to colleges outside of the District.

As Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said at the time, it was in "recognition of the fact that the federal government's ownership of land in D.C. has so badly affected the income and infrastructure of the city that it has been unable to create a public university system that offers students a quality education at a reasonable cost."

In his letter ["D.C. Should Help Fund Higher Education," Oct. 5], Wayne Upshaw discussed the growing appropriations requests associated with the program.

However, the program is not and never will be a "free ride." It is a small part of the District's relationship with the federal government to help respond to our constrained tax base.

The program is helping more than 4,300 District residents to afford higher education. Many of these people are the first in their family to attend college. The federal government should continue this worthwhile fiscal investment.

DEBORAH A. GIST

Interim State Education Officer

D.C. Education Office

Washington